The Importance of Sufficient Sleep

This year, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) designated March 3-10 as their annual week-long campaign to celebrate the health benefits of sleep. The observance will culminate with the return to Daylight Savings Time, when clocks move ahead one hour and too many Americans lose an additional hour of sleep. The NSF recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

It is estimated that one-third of Americans do not get enough sleep each night and to some this sleep deprivation is a badge of honor. In reality though, sufficient sleep is the cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle.  Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

In addition to adverse health effects, insufficient sleep can also put you at greater risk of dangerous accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause of 100,000 auto crashes each year in the United States. In fact, many experts agree that drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. This problem is greatest among people under 25 years old.

A sleep disorder is often the culprit for why someone is not getting the rest they need.  Sleep problems include snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep deprivation and restless leg syndrome, and are common among millions of Americans. If you find that you have trouble falling and staying asleep, your doctor may recommend you go to a sleep clinic for diagnosis of your sleep problem.

To help ensure a good night’s sleep, it is important to practice good sleep hygiene. For instance, stick to a regular bedtime routine in which you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, regardless if it is a weekend or holiday. Avoid napping, stressful activities, caffeine and alcohol too close to your bedtime. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Before going to bed, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga.

If you find you are consistently not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night or you feel drowsy during the day, talk to your doctor about the possibility of a sleep disorder.

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